Popular N.B. hiking trail closed indefinitely after air rescue results in downed trees

·3 min read
A hiker had to be air lifted from the Walton Glen Gorge trail Sunday, resulting in damage to trees along the trail. (Calixte LeBlanc - image credit)
A hiker had to be air lifted from the Walton Glen Gorge trail Sunday, resulting in damage to trees along the trail. (Calixte LeBlanc - image credit)

A hiking trail along New Brunswick's Fundy coast is closed indefinitely after a helicopter that was deployed to rescue a hiker Sunday blew down several trees, damaging a section of the trail.

Sussex Fire Chief Bill Wanamaker said his department received a call at about 5 p.m. that a hiker broke her ankle while on the Walton Glen Gorge trail, which is located about halfway between St. Martins, N.B. and Alma, N.B.

When crews arrived, they found the 20-year-old hiker on a steep section of trail, unable to walk, Wanamaker said.

"It was determined pretty quick that the hiker was unable to walk up. Due to the terrain, it was pretty near impossible to like, to carry them up," he said.

Wanamaker said crews decided to request an air rescue from the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, and later that evening, a Cormorant helicopter lifted the hiker off the trail and dropped her off at the trail's parking lot, where she was seen by paramedics.

Canadian Armed Forces
Canadian Armed Forces

While the rescue was successful, the downward draft created by the helicopter's rotors uprooted and toppled several trees along the trail, said James Donald, president of the board for the Fundy Trail Development Authority.

"We don't have a timeline yet [for reopening the trail]," Donald said.

"I mean, it's about resources near the end of the season and getting the resources to assess it and repair it. So hopefully we can get it open before the end of the season again," said Donald, adding the trail officially closes after the Thanksgiving weekend.

This wasn't the first time this summer a hiker had to be rescued from the Walton Glen Gorge trail.

Just two weeks prior, a man had to be air lifted off the trail after breaking his leg around the same section, Wanamaker said.

"I think it's just steep," said Wanamaker, about the trail. "And you know, if it's wet it could be, you know, slippery that way and then you're on rocks that are slippery as well."

Wanamaker said his fire department has also received calls on two separate occasions this summer from hikers who got lost while hiking in the area, and needed help finding their way out.

Up until last summer, the Walton Glen Gorge trail was typically only used by experienced hikers who knew how to navigate the region's back-country roads to find it, Donald said.

But last July, the province extended the Fundy Trail Parkway to pass near the start of the trail, and also constructed an observation deck overlooking the Walton Glen Gorge.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

Since then, the trail has seen a big increase in hikers, Donald said.

"I think people underestimate how difficult it is until they get down in it and then they have to climb back out," Donald said.

Donald said anyone who plans to hike the trail when it reopens should do some research before setting out, and wear proper shoes.

"I wouldn't be a beginner hiker and go to that trail because if you're not used to hiking then there's other trails, there's many other trails in the park that would be better suited for that, to get a feel for it."

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